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Imperial_Solaire

Thoughts on Fudging Rolls?

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So most of my close friends are all DMs and we all come from different RPG backgrounds (EotE, DnD 3.5/5, CoC, Pathfinder, etc.) and something that always sparks a real interesting discussion is the topic of fudging rolls in our games. 

I will talk about my personal experiences and feelings on fudging rolls, but I would love to hear the opinion of other DMs and even from a player mindset. 
 

  1. A outright TPK can be anti-climactic and can really ruin the mood and fun and leave a bad taste in the players mouth. 
  2. If a player is absolutely on fire with their rolls it will make the encounter seem too easy
    1. I typically increase an NPCs opposing skill during social encounters if the Face at the time has been having fire rolls
    2. I will have the enemy land the hit that they wouldn't otherwise, create tension in the altercation
      1. I never have them roll enough damage to give a major injury or knock them out
  3. On the flip-side, if they player is having a super rough time I will throw them a bone
    1. Maybe the regular success on a spot hidden or insight reveals information that was written for the Hard Success
    2. I will lower the opposing skill of an NPC so they have an easier chance of a success
    3. I will make a monster use an attack that holds the investigator instead of killing the investigator
      1. Or if they hit the investigator with an extreme success, itll be a hard success so they don't do as much damage
      2. I will have the damage be a bit lower than what was rolled

 

I believe you should only fudge the roll if it improves fun and/or the narrative. I would never fudge rolls as a power trip like THAT kind of CoC keeper. 

Here is a context that I have fudged a roll in my campaign

 

So I was running Down Darker Trails with a bit of pulpy rules (double health and feats) and the context of the campaign is that Bo Diddley (a PC) was telling the story of his old wild west days to his son Joeseph (a PC of my Berlin campaign played by the same player) so the entire party would kind of get away with doing some ridiculous things because Bo is an alcoholic.

Well! After an explosion in a mountain the party is running to escape, well one failed a Dex roll and Bo succeeded, well I rolled damage of the fire and shockwave and it did MAX damage. Well as the last scene of the entire Down Darker Trails campaign (for now) a normal Keeper would think this would be a good time to kill a PC. Well the player in question has been roll playing his character fantastic, opting to have his character have defects for roleplaying. He also betrayed the party before hand by siding with the Serpent people but with the chance to kill the party he went to the light and fought to save them. This man is played his character so well I feel that killing his character would possibly leave a serious impression and can be very heartfelt to find his corpse in the rubble and instead of a betrayer he is the reason they are alive. Well, I thought I would give him one more chance to live. I did HALF the damage, which still gave him a major injury so he needed to get medical attention immediately anyways so he can atleast die in the arms of Bo and have a heartfelt moment. Well Bo in his grand wisdom and drunken story telling decided to say he wanted to Ride the injured man down the mountain like a skateboard, this sounded so ridiculous but knowing Bo this would be a lie he would tell his son so I said ok (took a little bit more HP away from Jasper, the injured PC). Well Jasper asked about possible giant rocks falling from the explosion, roll luck. Fail! Roll damage (by this point i gave him already a chance to survive and I wouldn't feel comfortable fudging two death rolls). It rolls enough damage to put him at 1 HP, so I say the rubble lands on his left side and crushes his leg and arm leaving him immobile. Jasper screams to Bo to run for his life but Bo says no, he pulls him out and CRITS a first aid check. He managed to save Jasper from an inch from his life and Jasper said he will get rid of his vices of women and drugs, living a good life. 

 

Well now Jaspers redemption has been a talking point in our group for over a year and everyone says they had a great time and loved Jaspers arc. I feel fudging that one roll made Jasper a fulfilled character in that players eyes and had a lot of fun. He even said he will continue to play Jasper with the crutch because it would be an amazing roleplay, a now god loving man redeeming his name across america and researching the mythos and fighting the serpents. 

 

I feel fudging rolls can create more roleplaying doors and can make sessions more memorable, but it is important to NEVER TELL YOUR PLAYERS YOU FUDGE ROLLS. This can cause them to doubt any major success. 

Well these are my views on this matter, what is yours? I'm interested in your experiences with fudging rolls or reasoning to never fudge a rolls under any circumstance. Let me know!

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Using luck point can increase tension has they go down, and also reduce the need to fudge.. :)

But of course, fudging is good when you misjudge the situation...  It's just called, rectifying the odds! :P 

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10 hours ago, Imperial_Solaire said:

I believe you should only fudge the roll if it improves fun and/or the narrative.

This. 

Now, a couple disclaimers: 1) roll fudging that maintains a "Keeper vs player" mentality or that is designed to harm the players is never acceptable. You only "fudge up." 2) I do mostly campaign play. Players get attached to their characters. It is ok for players to get attached to their characters. It is not a Keeper's business to tell a player how they should feel about anything, let alone their character. It becomes all about communication under those circumstances and respecting what people like about games. In one-shots, where the expectation of TPK or player-death is expected, this isn't controversial. I would roll completely out in the open when running a game at an FLGS, and make clear that TPK and player death was possible/likely. 3) Anyone reading this should consider that there may be different purposes to fudging rolls than what you imagine. If you have only encountered roll fudging in an anti-player nefarious context, please be open to the possibility that it isn't the only reason why people fudge rolls. I get the impression that people come into this debate with the gloves off because they think the debate is about cheating when, in my eyes, it is really about psychological table management, story-telling, and respect for the players. So, just cool your jets.

I really struggle with the group that says that you should never fudge rolls in campaign play. I also think that, to some extent, this should extend to one-shots too. Why?

Stories with too many "random" elements just aren't fun. Maybe they are fun to you. And maybe you also aren't recognizing times when a roll ruined a story. There is no Keeper on the planet that can perfectly balance a scenario. It is complete arrogance to believe that the dice will always produce fun and compelling stories, or that you can explain your way out of any situation in a way that makes it plausible to your players. Even if you are running a one-shot, you always have to contend with the situation where a player trips on a stone in the first ten minutes and falls into a pit of lava. "You just have extra characters on hand." Yeah, but my response to that is that the random thing that just happened is absurd and stupid. Now, a good Keeper can maybe explain their way out of that. They have the sense to describe the "near miss." But everybody then knows that you did fudge. You just fudged your description rather than the roll. I think a lot of people who think they don't fudge, actually fudge. But it's just a matter of where they fudge.

The true elephant in the room?

Stories are not random. Period. 

I'm probably pretty far afield of a lot of gamers in that I land on an extreme end of the continuum of role-players. I believe that the tactical wargamer background of some of the early RPG creators produced a story-telling crutch in the hobby that most have never fully recovered from. It has trained people to devalue the nature of human story creation. I understand that a lot of people like the random elements in role-playing games. I understand that there is a little thrill that people get from the possibility of someone surprisingly doing really bad or really great in a circumstance. But I also think that if you, as a Keeper, never fudge rolls in campaign play, your stories are probably being compromised in some way, and your players may not be having as much fun as you think they are.

This is why I am attracted to games like Amber and Hillfolk. It is why I really like the trend of "rules-light" games like Kids On Bikes and Tales from the Loop. It is also part of the reason why I like BRP, because BRP can be played rules-light. And we do. Now, if that isn't your cup of tea, that's fine. I've been gaming for nearly 30 years and I've seen "no fudge" ruin so many people's table experiences that I feel compelled to challenge what I consider to be poor conventional wisdom in the hobby.

 

Edited by klecser
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7 hours ago, Lloyd Dupont said:

Using luck point can increase tension has they go down, and also reduce the need to fudge.. :)

Yes! This is one of the highlights of the system in my eyes. I use the option rule that you can use luck points do pass a failed roll,  my players use this pretty often. I ran a one shot that I wrote years ago and I told my new players about this rule. Well they went all out on that rule, constantly using luck because they don't wanna fail any rolls and "what's the worst that can happen"

Well they were sneaking in a mansion and I called for the almighty "Group luck roll " the look on their faces when I said its the lowest person's luck that rolls. We all had a good laugh when the normal min-maxer of the group managed to have less than 10 luck. 

Well they were caught by the caretaker going get a glass of water in the kitchen and the police were called with a very detailed description of the investigators because we have just came from D&D where you feel the need to be a unique looking character.  

This one shot ended with the investigators not completing the mystery and ROBBED the mansion of their highest treasure, you know the Rogue DnD way. This was their first session so I wanted to ease them into it and simply asked "does anyone read the gold plated book in the library?" Then described the gruesome deaths the players went to on the drive back. 

 

Luck points are great and you are right that they create tension,  my players are very hesitant to use luck points now (but not TOO hesitant to the point where they never use it)

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I think fudging should be avoided, but if a GM feels that they have to fudge then they should do it sparingly, and, most importantly, not let the players find out that they are fudging. Once the players are aware of it, it cheapens the game for them. Either it takes the shine off of their accomplishments, or they start to play poorly, relying on the GM's fudging as a safety net.

 

I'v e seen far more games ruined by GM fudging that by bad die rolls, or TPKs. Bad die rolls or poor judgement are thing that players understand and can deal with, but GM fudging is something they can't do anything about.

 

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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4 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

I'v e seen far more games ruined by GM fudging that by bad die rolls, or TPKs. Bad die rolls or poor judgement are thing that players understand and can deal with, but GM fudging is something they can't do anything about.

You do bring up an important point here. To a great extent this is an issue of trust. Trust swings both ways. Many of us have had problems with being able to trust GMs. Some players have issues trusting GMs before a game even begins. Some of us have had GMs that we've trusted at the beginning, and then that trust was betrayed when they let an errant die roll completely derail the immersion and fun of the game.

The truth is that all of these things happen and we should all work to stop any issue that doesn't produce MGF. How can we, as Keepers, get better at anticipating issues of trust in advance?

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1 minute ago, klecser said:

You do bring up an important point here. To a great extent this is an issue of trust. Trust swings both ways

Yes, but that really wasn't what I was getting at. I was talking about agency. One of the major reasons why people play RPGs is because they can do all sorts of things they can't do in real life, and their decisions and actions have an effect on the game world. It gives players a sense of accomplishment to have saved the world or something. If the players become aware that the GM if fudging, then that sense of accomplishment goes away, as they know the GM was covering for them. They didn't save the world, the GM did and they just got to go along for the ride.

Just stop and thick of the memorable adventures you've had over the years and then consider how different you would feel about them if you knew the GM had rigged everything to work out the way it did and that the players had no effect on the course of the adventure or the outcome.That's why I cautioned that if a GM has to fudge something, it's crucial that the players don't find out. This is also why fudging has to be done sparingly, as players will eventually catch on if things always work out a certain way. 

In my current group the previous GM used to fudge constantly. If the players did better than expected he'd up the opposition, if the players did poorly, he'd nerf the opposition. He did this all the time. Once the players figured out what was going on they lost interest in the game and just "phoned it in" , as the knew the end result would be the same regardless of what they did. They had no agency in the game, and thus no real reason to get interested or involved. 

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes, but that really wasn't what I was getting at. I was talking about agency.

Stories are mutually crafted. Keepers depend upon players to make creative decisions to drive the narrative. Players depend upon Keepers to regulate the narrative and make decisions of their own. Fudging rolls doesn't have to deny agency. This isn't a binary decision-process. It is a continuum. You can have player agency and make decisions as a Keeper. The Keeper should have some agency to regulate story as the players do, in situ Being at the total mercy of the dice removes agency from everybody.

Agency is also, to some extent, illusion. The Keeper is constantly making decisions to regulate fun, and you either trust that process, or you don't. I've always found it pretty amazing that player's will trust their Keeper to present the framework for an interesting story, but then are completely ok with an errant die roll ruining what had the possibility of being a solid narrative. And just so I'm clear here, I'm not talking about preventing "something unexpected and bad happened to the Investigators and now they have to persevere to overcome it." I'm talking about "this produced an outcome completely illogical and fun-killing and now everybody's vibe is lost." And I can see that the logical response to that is that we also need to decide if it is even appropriate to have a die roll to begin with under certain circumstances. But people make mistakes. And you can either let a mistake derail the whole game, or you can take short term action to stop that.

We all have different experiences. You've experienced loss of agency more. I've experienced inane and obtuse die rolls derailing fun more. Consideration for both is important.

Edited by klecser
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11 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

In my current group the previous GM used to fudge constantly. If the players did better than expected he'd up the opposition, if the players did poorly, he'd nerf the opposition. He did this all the time. Once the players figured out what was going on they lost interest in the game and just "phoned it in" , as the knew the end result would be the same regardless of what they did. They had no agency in the game, and thus no real reason to get interested or involved. 

 

 

This parallels with my initial post of how I would do a similar thing to my players so I wish to add to my point.

 

I would only up the opposition if the players have had the best luck for a long long time and are getting too complacent and the fear of the enemy is gone. This is not to say I have the enemy cast some spell that is ridiculously dangerous,  but ill have their equipment have a special quality or up the stats. 

 

On the flip side, if the opposition is doing way too good I will do the opposite. Maybe they managed to hit them and it disabled their arm where their weapon is! Maybe I will call for a spot hidden or listen roll to show a possible advantage they can have on the enemy (a chandelier above if i wanted to go cliche). Or maybe, if the player rolled a regular success on a dodge toll after being pummeled,  well gee the enemy also rolled a regular success!

 

That's kind of my take on it, and although I feel strongly on this I have to say that I fudge a toll maybe once every 5 sessions, so its far between.

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3 minutes ago, Imperial_Solaire said:

That's kind of my take on it, and although I feel strongly on this I have to say that I fudge a toll maybe once every 5 sessions, so its far between.

I think that treating dice rolls as incontrovertibly sacred is just as toxic to a table vibe as fudging them maliciously against players. But that's just my perspective, and at any table any Keeper runs this is an example of something that should be discussed by any campaign group in advance. My players know I'm on their side, but they've taken enough knocks to know that they aren't being coddled.

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1 hour ago, klecser said:

I think that treating dice rolls as incontrovertibly sacred is just as toxic to a table vibe as fudging them maliciously against players.

It's not thought, and by quite a margin. Player can accept stuff like bad die rolls. I once lost five characters in succession because the GM would roll a critical hit with the first attack against my new character. That sort of stuff just happens from time to time. I could accept it though because it was just the dice and, later on, when I did good I could revel my success all that much more. And as a Player I need that sense of risk to make the game rewarding.

But if I know the GM is going to fudge things so that they work out for me regardless, then I stop caring much about the game. It will all turn out the same no matter what I try do.

 

One of the reasons why my players like to play a BRP based game such as Pendragon over D&D is that no matter how good they are, then is always a chance that the opposition can roll a critical and kill or incapacitate them with one hit. If I fudged things to elimiate that risk, they'd get bored with the game.

 

Lloyd Dupont mentioned luck points, and it is an excellent idea. Luck points give the players a mechanism to use to mitigate bad die rolls or other bits of misfortune without elminiating the sense of risk. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Imperial_Solaire said:

I would only up the opposition if the players have had the best luck for a long long time and are getting too complacent and the fear of the enemy is gone. This is not to say I have the enemy cast some spell that is ridiculously dangerous,  but ill have their equipment have a special quality or up the stats. 

That isn't necessarily fudging. As the GM you get to write the adventures, and over time you can bring in more powerful opponents. If the players are doing really well and finding the adventures easy, there is nothing wrong with giving them a tougher adventure. That's just part of the game.

1 hour ago, Imperial_Solaire said:

On the flip side, if the opposition is doing way too good I will do the opposite. Maybe they managed to hit them and it disabled their arm where their weapon is! Maybe I will call for a spot hidden or listen roll to show a possible advantage they can have on the enemy (a chandelier above if i wanted to go cliche). Or maybe, if the player rolled a regular success on a dodge toll after being pummeled,  well gee the enemy also rolled a regular success!

That's where something like Luck points can help the players too. Sometime the dice are cruel to the players (I once had a player roll a malfunction with both his main and reserve parachutes). A game mechanic of some sort that helps them bounce back from bad die rolls is nice, especially with a small group. Fudging somewhat less nice.

1 hour ago, Imperial_Solaire said:

That's kind of my take on it, and although I feel strongly on this I have to say that I fudge a toll maybe once every 5 sessions, so its far between.

At that rate is probably works out okay, and keeps under the player's radar. 

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2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

But if I know the GM is going to fudge things so that they work out for me regardless, then I stop caring much about the game. It will all turn out the same no matter what I try do.

Once again, I am not saying "no risk." I'm saying "remove stupid outcomes."

You want high risk. I don't want dice-driven, random stories.

I just want to point out that the Luck mechanic doesn't stop an NPC from blowing a character's head off in the first five minutes of a game. (So much for player agency, huh?) If you have games like that, where you say "Welp the dice! They have spoken. You didn't get to do anything, but dice always make things better!" I don't want to game at your table. That is a failure of attenuation to table psychology.

How does the gamer report go for that?

"How was your game?" 

"My character's head got blown off in the first five minutes."

"Isn't that your character that you had been building to that climax and were engineering a political reversal of the cult's policy?"

"Yep, that all ended. Dice don't lie. My character went from relevant and engaged to non-existent in five seconds."

"What a great Keeper! Man, imagine how boring your experience would have been if you got to accomplish your goals. Lucky that the dice were there to put you in your place!"

Yeah, I don't buy it.

 

Edited by klecser

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4 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

But if I know the GM is going to fudge things so that they work out for me regardless, then I stop caring much about the game. It will all turn out the same no matter what I try do.

So you think of the game a little more like a video game with its sense of accomplishment ect. Not as a storytelling game where the dice really should not be used much anyway.

Which makes sense, but just is very different than how I run and play. The dice are not the gods of our world, we are.

8 minutes ago, commandercrud said:

Fudging is cheating.

If there is a mentality that one can "win" a role-playing game. Otherwise, it is not cheating to collaboratively tell a compelling and engaging story better with the occasional die fudge. But I agree that if the players know it could very well ruin part of the game for them, and so my next conclusion is to generally not let players know you ever change rolls. Or which ones you change for that matter.

In the end I will also put the disclaimer that my opinions on this are all based around Call of Cthulhu specifically. This rather general thread title implies an end all be all, but it depends on game, group,and subjective opinion whether fudging is okay or not.

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11 hours ago, Dethstrok9 said:

So you think of the game a little more like a video game with its sense of accomplishment ect. Not as a storytelling game where the dice really should not be used much anyway.

Which makes sense, but just is very different than how I run and play. The dice are not the gods of our world, we are.

If there is a mentality that one can "win" a role-playing game. Otherwise, it is not cheating to collaboratively tell a compelling and engaging story better with the occasional die fudge. But I agree that if the players know it could very well ruin part of the game for them, and so my next conclusion is to generally not let players know you ever change rolls. Or which ones you change for that matter.

In the end I will also put the disclaimer that my opinions on this are all based around Call of Cthulhu specifically. This rather general thread title implies an end all be all, but it depends on game, group,and subjective opinion whether fudging is okay or not.

The dice are a tool to help direct the story, instead of it just being a GM/Player story hour. If you're ignoring the dice, you might as well just sit around a campfire and talk. The dice make it a game. You don't have to have a "video game" or "win" mentality to respect the role the dice play. As a Keeper, I can direct the story however I want, but if I decide to roll the dice, I'm going to use their result. If I'm going to just ignore what they say, then why bother rolling?

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2 hours ago, commandercrud said:

If I'm going to just ignore what they say, then why bother rolling?

This isn't a binary choice. It's not like you either fudge all the time or run straight dice all the time. You use fudging strategically to help your game not suck. Why are people ok with stories sucking? Are we assuming it is inevitable and that we have no choice in the matter? That we have no agency to make sure stories are satisfying to people?

I think most Keepers fudge. And I'm not talking about physical dice. I believe that some have never fudged the number that pops up on a roll. But I question that they aren't fudging some other part of the process as they manage their tables. Whether they realize where the fudge occurs is another question. People may  construct rationalizations as to why they don't fudge in some capacity, chiefest of which is Keeper descriptive decision-making. If you aren't fudging a physical roll, you are very likely fudging description. And I'm going to go back to my "PC head blown off in the first five minutes" example above.

If you have an early fight in a game, whether intended or not, and a PC has been building up to an interesting climax with complex politics and a lot of work and fun role-playing, why would you rob them of that on an errant dice roll? I find it hard to believe that a Keeper with any sense let's that character's head get blown off. So what do you do? You fudge. And you can rationalize all you want that fudging descriptions isn't the same as fudging dice, but they aren't effectively any different. It is a Keeper making a decision to alter an outcome for a more interesting story. And it doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a story-telling leader. It absolutely boggles my mind that some of you are willing to accept a more mediocre story if it means attenuating to the dice.

I think part of the interesting psychology of this is that some associate "fudging dice" with cheating and being a "bad or unfair person" so strongly. But as soon as you start fudging description, that's part and parcel with what we do. And it works with players too. I've been at tables where the example above has happened. And I've seen players get irritated when a Keeper rolls behind the screen. Yet, they are perfectly ok with them fudging a description, winking at all the players (or not winking, but most know what's going on), and everybody goes about their merry way. As if fudging description is perfectly acceptable, but fudging dice is an affront to the "spirit of the game." They know that this was an inopportune moment in the story, and that it would be silly to let an errant roll ruin it.

I'm all ears as to what the appropriately supportive alternative is to some kind of fudge in that example. And by appropriately supportive, I don't mean a Gygaxian "too bad so sad" mentality, or "solutions" that include victim blaming.

Edited by klecser
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14 hours ago, commandercrud said:

Fudging is cheating.

Yes it is, but an RPG isn't a competitive game. As the goal of a RPG is for the players to be entertained and have fun, then cheating towards that goal does not violate the spirit of the game.

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1 hour ago, klecser said:

This isn't a binary choice. It's not like you either fudge all the time or run straight dice all the time. You use fudging strategically to help your game not suck. Why are people ok with stories sucking?

it is usually better than the alternative, which is stories become too predicable and boring. Once the players figure out that the GM is running them with a "safety net" the game will become less exiting.

You see it all the time on TV. The hero gets into a fight with some nameless thug who won't be appearing in next weeks episode. If we know the hero has "script immunity" here it just become dull and tedious to watch. If, however, the hero can actually get beaten up and dragged off to the thug's boss, things get less predicable and much more interesting.

Another drawback to the GM safety net, is that it is entirely arbitrary on the GMs part, giving players a legitimate gripe when the GM saves one PC but not another. Such a GM isn't running in an unbiased game.

18 hours ago, klecser said:

Once again, I am not saying "no risk." I'm saying "remove stupid outcomes."

The don't roll dice for those things.Keep in mind that it is the GM who dices if something requires a roll or not. 

Or, conversely, don't write stupid outcomes for when the players fail roll or get beaten. Often inopportune die results can be used by the GM to craft more interesting situations and stories rather than stupid ones.

18 hours ago, klecser said:

I just want to point out that the Luck mechanic doesn't stop an NPC from blowing a character's head off in the first five minutes of a game.

Yes, but that's a good thing. If the player characters went in any danger, the players wouldn't be interested in the encounter. Now there are several ways of doing things that avoid fudging.

The first is to do like D&D does with increasing hit points. Someone with 80 hit points in d20 Modern isn't going to drop even if he gets shot by a .50 cal!

Another method is to write adventures to avoid a lot of conflict in the beginning. Yet another is a Luck point mechanic (or better yet a Hero Point mechanic). Still yet another is to stat up the NPCs so that such a result is unlikely.

 

But, if the GM steps in and fudging the rolls or results, especially on a regualr basis, the players will catch on and it will affect thier enjoyment of the game at least as much as the "stupid outcomes" would have. 

 

 

 

Quote

(So much for player agency, huh?) If you have games like that, where you say "Welp the dice! They have spoken. You didn't get to do anything, but dice always make things better!" I don't want to game at your table. That is a failure of attenuation to table psychology.

And if you run a game where you will dictate the outcome and the players are just chess pieces who live and die by your whim, I don't want to game at your table. 

 

Dice are used in RPGs for a reason- to randomize the results. If you, as a GM do not wan't random results, don't roll dice. There are diceless RPGs out there, such as Amber, where the GM can pretty much dictate the outcome, based partially on the character stats. But in those games it is all above board and accepted as part of the game, not done on the sly.

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Or, conversely, don't write stupid outcomes for when the players fail roll or get beaten.

This right here is what I think klecser meant by fudging descriptions instead. By keeping dice rolls normal and using the actual roll, but instead of the Investigator's head being blow off, the Investigator drops to one hit point or loses an arm due to the bad die roll.

 

3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

You see it all the time on TV. The hero gets into a fight with some nameless thug who won't be appearing in next weeks episode. If we know the hero has "script immunity" here it just become dull and tedious to watch. If, however, the hero can actually get beaten up and dragged off to the thug's boss, things get less predicable and much more interesting.

I try to keep the story moving and compelling, if that means fudging the dice or foregoing rolls so be it. It is not predictable because the players should not know. You keep insinuating that they will "eventually discover you aren't playing fair", when that is in no way the case. If you roll behind your screen, and only change the outcome when it seems appropriate, there should be no way the players see that, and that does not mean you aren't playing fair. The rules, the system, the statistics, and the dice are all tools. When they cease to be useful, I cease to make use of them.

 Besides that, I would never change a mediocre encounter like the one you just described and frankly would not include it in a CoC game anyway. There are no nameless thugs, everything should be woven into each other.If one person dies, a chain reaction should begin. There will never be nameless thugs.

6 hours ago, commandercrud said:

The dice are a tool to help direct the story, instead of it just being a GM/Player story hour. If you're ignoring the dice, you might as well just sit around a campfire and talk. The dice make it a game. You don't have to have a "video game" or "win" mentality to respect the role the dice play. As a Keeper, I can direct the story however I want, but if I decide to roll the dice, I'm going to use their result. If I'm going to just ignore what they say, then why bother rolling?

Yes they are a tool in my hand and one should only use it when necessary. In fact that is a very good point, the real roll the dice play for me as Keeper is the way to determine how much success a player has in any given action. I personally don't use them that often, it's mostly for the players. And then you have situations where you call for a roll, for example spot hidden. Then the player fails, but you decide they will still notice what you wanted them to see anyway, but also make note that there was more they could have found. Is that cheating? Or is it moving the story forward?

 

 

3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

The first is to do like D&D does with increasing hit points. Someone with 80 hit points in d20 Modern isn't going to drop even if he gets shot by a .50 cal!

Another method is to write adventures to avoid a lot of conflict in the beginning. Yet another is a Luck point mechanic (or better yet a Hero Point mechanic). Still yet another is to stat up the NPCs so that such a result is unlikely.

What you describe it not Call of Cthulhu or realistic, and also makes the game sound like winning is an inherent part. The way to avoid it, at least for me, is to not roll dice to much or to change things to suit the collective purpose of the game and story. Each character, including the PCs, serve the plot, not the other way around. The Investigators mold and shape the plot by their choices, and the Keeper leads it and connects the dots.

By that logic of dice outcome changes is cheating, so is changing the stats of NPCs.

 

 Finally,  if the players think creating the story is less important then dice and stats, then they should find a different GM then me. I know that what I do works for myself, maybe it doesn't for you, but I stream my games and you can see how my players react to stuff. It's not negative.

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8 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

This right here is what I think klecser meant by fudging descriptions instead.

That's not fudging descriptions. At least not if the situation is written that way beforehand. A GM has the power to set up practically all the encounters and scenes beforehand.

Now it is fudging if the GM alters stuff on the fly. 

8 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

 

 

By keeping dice rolls normal and using the actual roll, but instead of the Investigator's head being blow off, the Investigator drops to one hit point or loses an arm due to the bad die roll.

 

I try to keep the story moving and compelling, if that means fudging the dice or foregoing rolls so be it. It is not predictable because the players should not know. You keep insinuating that they will "eventually discover you aren't playing fair", when that is in no way the case.

It's usually easy to figure out, due to number of close calls. A good example would be any of those TV action shows where, despite all the gunfire no one ever seems to get shot or even seriously hurt. Reasonably perceptive players will tend to pick up on this , and even test the GM by taking greater risks or just by watching how the opposition consistently runs into bouts of bad luck right when they were about to win.

It's hard to keep fudging a secret long term.

 

8 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

If you roll behind your screen,

Then the players immediately know there is fudging going on. Secret die rolls are a dead giveaway. There is really no other reason to roll dice behind the screen. 

 

8 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

and only change the outcome when it seems appropriate, there should be no way the players see that, and that does not mean you aren't playing fair.

Yes, it does. The GM is not playing fair. But, the GM doesn't necessarily have to play fair, as RPGs are by design inherently unfair. All are biased towards the players. That's not the problem. It when the GM is not treating the players the same when it becomes an issue. If a GM saves some PCs sometimes and not others, then he is playing favorites. 

 

8 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

The rules, the system, the statistics, and the dice are all tools. When they cease to be useful, I cease to make use of them.

Do your players know and accept that? Remember the game is also there for their enjoyment, as well as the GMs. Few players like the idea that the GM is going to override their actions and die rolls on a whim. 

 

Now, I'm not saying that some occasionally fudging can't help at times, only that in my experience, I've seen fudging do far more harm to a campaign than good. All the players in the area know what GMs fudge regularly. 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Atgxtg said:

That's not fudging descriptions. At least not if the situation is written that way beforehand. A GM has the power to set up practically all the encounters and scenes beforehand.

Now it is fudging if the GM alters stuff on the fly. 

Improvisation is key, not being over-prepared with every situation written beforehand. Can any GM really believe they can foresee every possible situation and choice?

 

4 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

t's usually easy to figure out, due to number of close calls. A good example would be any of those TV action shows where, despite all the gunfire no one ever seems to get shot or even seriously hurt. Reasonably perceptive players will tend to pick up on this , and even test the GM by taking greater risks or just by watching how the opposition consistently runs into bouts of bad luck right when they were about to win.

It's hard to keep fudging a secret long term.

 This associates all fudging with plot armor and using an example of action films when referencing Call of Cthulhu: the game of cosmic dread and horror. Neither of these assumptions are correct. I do not generally use dice changes to protect anybody.

If you let the tables turn and use both ups and downs effectively, it will not be abused or discovered. Characters die, people get captured, the bad guys can win. If it makes a more horrific story, so be it.

9 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Then the players immediately know there is fudging going on. Secret die rolls are a dead giveaway. There is really no other reason to roll dice behind the screen. 

No other reason ehh? I beg to differ. How about rolling spot hidden so the players don't know if there's something there or not. For example, I always give some info with a spot hidden, the players never see nothing. I roll behind the screen, then tell them what they see. They now don't have the metagame mentality of "I rolled and failed, but there definitely was something there".

13 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes, it does. The GM is not playing fair. But, the GM doesn't necessarily have to play fair, as RPGs are by design inherently unfair. All are biased towards the players. That's not the problem. It when the GM is not treating the players the same when it becomes an issue. If a GM saves some PCs sometimes and not others, then he is playing favorites.

We seem to be at a misunderstanding. I serve the narrative, not myself, and by not playing fair I misspoke. I meant, "the GM is not cheating". Not only that, but I would never alter rolls in life or death situations. 

17 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Do your players know and accept that? Remember the game is also there for their enjoyment, as well as the GMs. Few players like the idea that the GM is going to override their actions and die rolls on a whim. 

 

Now, I'm not saying that some occasionally fudging can't help at times, only that in my experience, I've seen fudging do far more harm to a campaign than good. All the players in the area know what GMs fudge regularly. 

Yes my players do. I tell them, as I say in my videos, that in my games the plot comes first. They certainly don't know when I do what I do, but that's fine and even works with the themes of CoC. In my experience, which granted is not much, I have found improvisation and on the fly adjustments to be game savers and keep everything interesting. I can't account for all the players actions beforehand, so when I prepare a scenario, I make a list of NPCs, Locations, and some key events which I need to happen. These events do not need specific people or locations to work, they just are integral to my idea of the story. If the players go down a different road, then I can forgo anything and switch up everything if need be.

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30 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Now, I'm not saying that some occasionally fudging can't help at times, only that in my experience, I've seen fudging do far more harm to a campaign than good. All the players in the area know what GMs fudge regularly. 

And the players that I game with know all the GMs who can't improvise and read a table.

Quote

That's not fudging descriptions. At least not if the situation is written that way beforehand. A GM has the power to set up practically all the encounters and scenes beforehand.

Now it is fudging if the GM alters stuff on the fly. 

This comment is really strange to me. If you improvise on the fly, you are a cheater, but if you write it out ahead of time it is ok? How can your players know what you write in advance? And if they don't know what you write in advance, how can they possibly know that "it's ok that you altered a narrative because you wrote it in advance?" It really sounds to me like you are stuck in this perception that there is "one right way" to improvise and that GMs have no choices as soon as dice hit table.

Quote

Or, conversely, don't write stupid outcomes for when the players fail roll or get beaten. Often inopportune die results can be used by the GM to craft more interesting situations and stories rather than stupid ones.

I was waiting for this to happen. The idea that GMs can write scenarios that are good enough to be above mistake potential. Anyone who has GMed for any length of time knows that it is virtually impossible to write a scenario that is not subject to curve balls.

Quote

Dice are used in RPGs for a reason- to randomize the results. If you, as a GM do not wan't random results, don't roll dice.

We've gone from "fudging is bad because it removes player agency" to "you can avoid bad outcomes by not rolling dice at all." How does that not also remove player agency to some extent? You remove a players mechanical skill suite in favor of just the creativity. At the end of the day, does the Keeper not always make decisions that influences a story outcome and that are predicated on creative non-mechanical solutions?

You seem to be questioning things that "people who fudge dice" do, but its ok for people who don't fudge to do similar things, so long as they dress it with rhetoric that makes it feel comfortable.

I'm not asking you to agree with me. I know that isn't going to happen. I'm just trying to point out how "potayto potahto" the arguments seem to be. I don't think any GM can be effective without controlling narrative in some way. I think "random rolls make it fun" is just an illusion. Everything in a game is a lot less random than players imagine it to be.

At the end of the day, the goal should be MGF. But I think its also worth noting to people that what produces that can be very different in different groups. And thats why the debate over "fudging" is a problem for the hobby, in my opinion, because it ultimately results in value judgments about what "acceptable" and "unacceptable" table environments are. And you get people saying "fudging has helped us have more interesting table story outcomes" and the response is: "you're all a bunch of cheaters." That's a real hobby-growing exchange right there. 

Edited by klecser
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This topic has been much debated over the years and never resolved.  The best response I've ever heard to the issue is:

Know what you're asking for before you roll.

Set the parameters of the possible outcomes before asking players to roll for a result.  "Fudging" is shifting the goalpost after the roll. For the sake of tension, though, the players don't necessarily need to know the stakes at the outset.

HeroQuest 2.0 introduced the rather controversial "Mock Contest" in which the GM challenges the players to a series of rolls while having a set outcome already in mind.  This isn't necessarily "fudging" as such, though, in that the contest still describes the process and quality of arriving at that outcome.  This is an old trick that I've used as a GM for ages -- I know my players' characters are going to get through this situation alive and move on to the next scene, but I'm willing to either bruise them up a little on the way or let them proceed as total heroes, but death is not one of the options until later on in the adventure.

!i!

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8 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

This topic has been much debated over the years and never resolved.

I would assume the correct answer differs from group to group and game to game. Not to mention system to system. It's all very subjective and what works in some cases will not work in others. To reiterate my opinion, there is no end all be all on this specific topic.

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